At SCAD, students can get a degree in sneaker design

The world’s only accredited degree program in sneaker design launched last year and is offered at both Atlanta and Savannah campuses

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SCAD’s sneaker degree program provides new opportunities for designers
High tops designed by junior Shane Annexstad

Photograph by Wedig & Laxton

Back in grade school, Quintin Williams dreamed his doodles of cars would lead to a career in automobile design. Though that didn’t pan out, his love for sketching laid the groundwork for a career in shoe design that has taken the 2011 Savannah College of Art and Design graduate from working with global athletic brands to cofounding an online sneaker company, Q4 Sports.

With other SCAD alumni walking similarly impressive career paths in the industry—Cesar Idrobo (Yeezy), Carson Whittaker (Reebok), and Zaneta Horne (Adidas)—school founder and president Paula Wallace saw an opportunity and launched the world’s only accredited degree program in sneaker design last year.

Williams is one of two instructors (Michael Mack, Williams’s SCAD mentor, is the other) leading a 10-week quarter in classes like Rapid Prototyping, Marketing and Distribution for Footwear, and Digital Sneaker Design, which uses Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headsets and 3-D printers more than pencils and pads. The minor, offered within SCAD’s School of Fashion, is available at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses.

SCAD’s sneaker degree program provides new opportunities for designers
SCAD alumnus and sneaker designer Cesar Idrobo, left, with a current student

Photograph courtesy of SCAD

“I believe that mentorship is key in anything, but it’s definitely important in my growth as a designer,” says Rodrick Thomas, a SCAD senior who’s completed the course. “As I embark on my career, I would like to work with seasoned, talented designers and soak up as much information and wisdom as I can.”

Lauren Amos, owner of Atlanta sneaker and fashion boutique Wish, was an early supporter. “When a SCAD grad goes to [work at] Nike, then the next SCAD grad can say, Oh, I can do it, too,” says Amos, whose company is funding the WISH Atlanta Sneaker Design Scholarship for three aspiring creatives. “When I was young, I don’t think sneaker design was even a thing. But now it’s a $78 billion industry. They say in a couple of years it’s going to be $120 billion.”

SCAD’s sneaker degree program provides new opportunities for designers

Photograph by Wedig & Laxton

Amos does her interview in head-turning Comme des Garçons/Nike collaborative shoes you’d sooner expect to see on a Milan catwalk than a Moreland Drive shop shelf. The heeled sneaker is whimsical and wondrous. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of fanciful footwear SCAD would love to see its future students turn from a classroom doodle to an in-store display.

This article appears in our January 2023 issue.

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